Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Father Elijah: the Mystery of the Cross

Father Dave’s sermon about Jesus’ surprising recruitment tactics ends where it should: at the Cross. But it doesn’t clarify much; it only confirms a mystery at the centre of our faith.

Quote: "In truth, I’m really not sure why, but I think it’s got something to do with the cross, and I think it’s got something to do with the connection between love and suffering."

Usually, when we hear a homily that pleases us or that we understand perfectly, we do not learn anything new. We knew it all before and take pleasure in hearing what we think is the truth. In other words, there’s not much place left for an act of faith. Thank got this sermon did not please me too much and I didn’t get a perfect answer either. That’s a good sign. There’s place for hope.

Faith requires amazement, admiration – even provocation. It’s the only way to get our soul out of its self-made petty-bourgeoisie. Christ does not talk to crowds, but to persons. And he does not respect the plaster we put on ourselves to hide our weakness and embarrassment – in biblical terms, our nudity. He speaks directly to the soul. And in the soul, there is a strange attraction towards the cross. And may God forbid that we ever turn away from the cross. Or worse, that we think we understand it and turn it into an ideology.

You can see these two tendencies in the way Christianity presents itself. Christian newspapers full of artificial simpering and starchy ‘all-is-well’ smiles probably do attract a certain amount of people, but probably they repulse more. On the other hand, the so-called ‘dolourist’ trend, putting all emphasis only on the suffering Christ, doesn’t do much justice to the Lord either – He did resurrect, and that’s not a trivial detail.

Talking about my Catholic experience (in a provocative way) I can assure you that twenty years ago, when I entered into religious life, there where no problems with the number of vocations. The problem was to find a place for the vocations that emerged. The people who do felt a calling to consecrate their lives had almost nowhere to go, and that’s where it did hurt. In the majority of so-called ‘liberal’ orders you were not welcome if you liked the Pope, wanted to pray or simply wanted to wear the habit. These orders had a lot of money and especially a favourable press, but no new members - this despite their self-imposed niceness (which turned me off too). The few seminaries on the other hand that were considered to be ‘conservative’ did have candidates, and the more 'demanding' orders did get novices.

That doesn’t mean ‘hard’ means ‘good’. Looking at the recent past, it’s quite obvious that often the liberal wave emerged form a moralist and sclerotic formalisation of the evangelical life. Liberal and moralist tsunamis succeed each other like action and reaction. If you don’t want to drown and sail somewhere at all, you’ll always have to come to Christ – and walk on the water with Him.

At the moments when Jesus is demanding, he helps us to interiorize and authenticate the truth in us. Christ never recruited, but He bore witness for the truth that He knew and wanted to see become reality in us. Thus He never attracted by niceness or bullied by fear. He challenged his disciples to enter into an initiation that would lead them to the great mystery of faith and hope: his Father, who had always been their God, now wanted to become their Father too.

Christ never denied or rejected the joys of life. And he never exploited the self-destructive impulses of prostitutes and violent young males. But He did help them to discern progressively in themselves truth from lie, love from hate, fear from courage; not to domesticate them into petty-bourgeois nerds, but to mobilize their vitality for the kind of loving self-giving madness that pleases to the heavenly Father.

The place and time where eternity provokes that discernment is the Cross.

Does that clarify everything? I hope it doesn’t. At least to me it doesn’t. That’s why I want to keep trekkin’. Nowhere to rest…


Post a Comment

<< Home